OTTAWA -- The long-awaited multi-use pathway connecting Ottawa and Gatineau through Lemieux Island will go ahead, good news for cyclists and pedestrians travelling along the Ottawa River.

On Monday, the city of Ottawa and the federal government announced construction will begin this year on the defunct bridge formerly known as the Prince of Wales Bridge.

“I was happy when I heard the news,” said cyclist Khanh Nguyen.

“It (will) be nice to be able to bike there quickly,” said Jim Bennett-Ross, referring to crossing the river to Gatineau.

The bridge is currently off-limits to the public, but it will become another option to travel between the two provinces.

“It’s another way for residents and tourists alike to travel between the two cities on a designated path for cyclists and pedestrians and in the winter time cross-country skiing,” said Mayor Jim Watson.

For Ottawa resident James Hearn, the bridge upgrade creates another option while walking his 11 week-old puppy. 

“It certainly allows it to be easier for people in both sides to transport back and forth,” he said. 

Expected to open in 2022, the project is estimated to cost $22.6 million. The federal government will commit $8.6 million to the project.

Despite being off limits and following repeated warnings, the bridge has been used by some to jump into the river below. In the past year alone, two people drowned in the river at the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Part of the city’s plan to upgrade the 140-year-old bridge will include new railings for added safety, new lighting and 12 new benches that will serve as rest areas. It will also feature indigenous art work— dedicating one per cent of construction costs to bring it to life.

“True reconciliation comes with real action. And these announcements are real action,” said John Boudrias, Grand Chief of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation. 

Just a few weeks ago, Ottawa Council passed a motion officially renaming the bridge the Chief William Commanda Bridge, honouring the late Algonquin elder.

While its completion is at least another year away, residents are looking forward to the opening.

“One of the toughest things, we’ve been confined for so long to be able to go outside for a walk over a bridge in a beautiful park is a great thing,” said Hearn.